How to reattach a coffee cup handle

March 5

Question: I have a set of dishes in the Wedgwood Quince pattern. The pieces are 45 years old, but still very serviceable. However, in the past 10 months, I dropped one mug on a stone countertop and the handle snapped off cleanly. Then a few months later, a second cup slipped out of my hand and hit the counter. Yes, you guessed it, the handle on this one also snapped off cleanly. I found a place to buy replacements, but they cost $50 each. Is there a way to reattach these cup handles securely enough so I can use the cups for coffee again?

— Woodbridge

Answer: Professional restorers usually use two-part epoxy to mend broken ceramics, but they shy away from repairing ceramics used for serving food because the epoxy is neither food-safe nor sufficiently heat-resistant.

However, the fact that your cup bodies are intact makes the food-safety issue less of a concern, said Tammy Haslage, a technical service representative for Henkel, which makes Loctite Epoxy Instant Mix 5 Minute and other two-part epoxy products under several brand names. “We would never recommend epoxy for the actual cup where it would be in contact with the food,” she said.

The heat-resistance issue isn’t so easy to dismiss. Loctite epoxy stands up to only 120 degrees, Haslage said. Very hot coffee would exceed that, though it’s possible the heat wouldn’t transfer through the ceramic enough to cause the epoxy to fail. But cleaning the cups in a dishwasher would definitely be a problem. So would using the cups to warm drinks in a microwave.


A reader’s broken Wedgwood cup. (Reader photo)

If you were to use the cups for only slightly warm drinks and always hand-wash them and keep them out of a microwave, a two-part epoxy would work, Haslage said. You’d also need to make sure everyone in your household followed those rules. Given the risk of a handle falling off and showering someone with hot coffee, it’s probably not worth it.

There is a professional work-around. Maudud Alam at M. Alam Restoration & Repair Services in Sterling, Va.
(703-450-4222; www.alamrestorations.com) would insert a steel pin to strengthen each joint so the cups could be used for hot drinks. He would warranty the repair for life. However, the same limitations about dishwashers and microwaves would still apply. And his minimum fee — $150 — makes the $50 replacement cost seem a bargain. If you check online sales outlets such as Etsy and eBay frequently, you might even find replacement mugs for less.

Definitely do not use Super Glue or other cyanoacrylate adhesive for a repair like this. It doesn’t fill gaps as well as two-part epoxy and isn’t so resistant to sideways pull, an important factor for a cup handle.

Question: I purchased a stained glass panel (approximately 16 by 32 inches) at a craft fair years ago. There, a lighted lamp behind it illuminated the colors of the glass. In my home, I was able to hang it in front of a window so that sunlight could show through. Now, in my apartment, this is not possible. Can you recommend someone who can build a lightbox for it so that the bulbs inside will illuminate it when I hang it on a wall like a painting?

— Montgomery County

Answer: You have a few options. The simplest, though probably not the brightest, would be to buy a white LED rope strip and attach it to the back, along the frame. Depending on the glass, the window dimensions, and the light output of the string, you might get only a warm glow, or you could get an effect that’s quite vivid. A multi-pane, circular window at www.superbrightleds.com turned out great.

That site sells the high-power strips in lengths considerably longer than you need, but if you do a Web search for “LED rope light,” you’ll find numerous other options, and home centers also sell kits. Get an LED strip, which stays cool, not one with incandescent bulbs, which gets hotter. Look for a string with tightly spaced LEDs, 1 inch or closer. Light ropes made for holiday decorations often have only one light every 2 inches.

Another idea is to take advantage of a design that Erwin Timmers at Washington Glass School in Mount Rainier (202-744-8222; www.washingtonglass
school.com
) has made. If you sign up for a welding class at the school, he will teach you to make your own. The next opportunity will be on three successive Wednesday evenings beginning April 2. Besides winding up with the lightbox, you’ll learn fundamentals about joining, bending and finishing metal. The fee is $350, which includes the metal you’d need.

Timmer would coach you about how many LED light modules to buy, via Amazon or eBay. The modules usually run on 12 volts, which means you’d also need to buy a low-voltage power supply if you don’t have one from a discarded electronic gadget that you can repurpose. The idea is to arrange the modules inside the box to create lighting that is as even as possible.

With either rope lights or modules, add a thin, translucent plastic cover to diffuse the light. Then top that with the window.

Another option is to purchase a custom-made lightbox from a sign company. Blue Water Signs in Forest Hill (410-420-2400; www.bwsigns.com) could help you, said Scott Bachman, the owner. He estimated the price would be $300-$400.

And, finally, you could go to a stained-glass company. When he builds lightboxes, Wayne Cain at Cain Architectural Art Glass in Bremo Bluff, Va. (434-842-3984; www.waynecain.com), focuses on creating the type of light that works best with the specific kinds of glass in the window. The more transparent the glass, the more important it is to have even light behind the glass, he says.

“Bars of LED lighting can be used around the frame, with the interior painted white to reflect the light in a softer fashion. If hard reflection is wanted, a reflective surface can be used on the interior of the light box, or more directional lights used. If a center focus is wanted, a spotlight, directed to a point on the wall inside the light box, and reflected back at the window is a possibility.”

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com. Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.

The Checklist: Read Jeanne Huber’s month-by-month roundup of home-improvement tasks at washingtonpost.com/home.

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